New class of Tulsa Firefighters training to be paramedics to help with shortfall

TULSA, Okla. — The Tulsa Fire Department (TFD) is cross training a new class of firefighters as paramedics in the hopes of being able to staff more engine trucks at additional fire stations with first responders with advanced life support (ALS) training.

FOX23 news spent time on Monday at fire station #24 at E. 36th Street North and North Peoria to learn more about what the training will allow firefighters to do.

The last time the training was offered through Tulsa Tech. was back in 2019.

That makes this group of 12 firefighters the first class to get the training in order to become paramedics for TFD since the pandemic.

Captain Jason Lemery, the head of EMS for TFD, said they are down four paramedics right now and ideally, with this new class and another one scheduled for next year, more fire stations across the city will be staffed with advanced life support or ALS engines.

Half of Tulsa’s 30 fire stations are staffed with paramedics on the trucks currently.

Captain Tim Lopez is a trained paramedic with TFD, where 75 percent of their calls are for medical response, not putting down fires.

“Being first responders, they have the stations spread out through the city where our response time is quite a bit faster than EMSA’s response time, so in order for us to get there fastest we have to be trained and be ready to go,” he said.

“Most of our calls are medical calls now,” Lopez remarked. “As those calls increase in volume we’re going to need more paramedics on the job.”

Lopez said they’re also losing firefighter and paramedics to retirement.

While all firefighters are trained EMTs, paramedics can provide advanced life support on scene, which includes medication and IV’s.

Twelve Tulsa firefighters are enrolled in a ten month program through Tulsa Tech. to become paramedics.

Captain Eddie Mangold, who said he’s worked at an ALS station for years, explained why he signed up for the training.

“I’ve seen this, what we call a dance before, but now I understand the dance, you know I understand why the meds we’re giving, the time frame of how they give them,” Mangold said. “Of course we all like to fight fires and, you know, do the hero stuff, but the medical part is very big part of it.”

If the 12 students pass the exams that are required, they will be able to be on the trucks as paramedics in May.

There is a bump in pay, and the head of EMS hopes they’ll be able to have more stations become ALS stations if they have the staff to support it.